Dirkie sits in a barrel for disabled kids

TO the pupils of the Meerhof School for disabled children at Hartbeespoortdam in North West, Dirkie Visagie is a hero.

TO the pupils of the Meerhof School for disabled children at Hartbeespoortdam in North West, Dirkie Visagie is a hero.

They don't care how many CDs he has sold or whether his music gets a lot of airplay on SA's radio stations.

Visagie has been sitting in a wine barrel overlooking the Hartbeespoortdam to create an awareness of the plight of the school.

The musician has been in the barrel, elevated on a 25-metre platform, for the past 14 days and plans to stay there for 69 days.

He said he had confined himself to the small, uncomfortable space as a sacrifice to the children.

Supportive community members use a pulley to send food and an ablution bucket up to him.

Said Visagie: "This will give me the satisfaction of knowing I can make a difference in someone else's life."

The Meerhof School is a safe haven for the 253 pupils who attend it. They suffer a range of 51 illnesses, varying in severity.

Despite this the school follows the normal curriculum set out by the Department of Education.

Most Meerhof pupils come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Pupils are housed in the school hostel during the week. They are charged R420 a month but families that cannot afford it pay nothing.

Pupils are offered occupational therapy, physiotherapy and psychological assistance at no extra charge.

Lydia Magidimisa, 18, said the school had had a great impact on her life.

"There are a number of careers I can explore since I was taught hospitality skills and crafts," she said.

The school is in desperate need of more teachers, extra classrooms, a media centre and an additional computer laboratory.

Dirkie will come down from the barrel on January 1 next year.

To contribute to this project SMS MEERHOF to 38955. SMSes are charged at R10 each.

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